For the past few months, FARM’s Southwest Outreach Coordinator, Angie Fitzgerald, has teamed up with Factory Farming Awareness Coalition’s LA Director, Nora Kramer, to put on monthly mixer/trainings for animal rights activists. These gatherings not only empower new & seasoned activists, they also strengthen the community of compassionate changemakers in the Los Angeles area. Many of our FARM supporters from around the country have been wanting to learn more about these events, so today’s blog post comes from Angie, sharing how the meetings have inspired action!
For many people, getting involved with animal activism is an exciting undertaking, but might also be an intimidating one. ‘What is effective animal activism? How do I get started? What if I don’t know all the answers?’
Almost a year ago now, FARM launched our Compassionate Activist Network (CAN) to address these questions and more, and create an online community to encourage and reward grassroots animal activism nationwide. When FARM’s Los Angeles office opened this past January we wanted to help build the local activist community here in Southern California, so we teamed up with the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition (FFAC) and started offering monthly animal activist trainings and mixers.
A local vegan coffee shop in Hollywood that boasts the most aromatic coffee and incredible French pastries, The Blue Rose Café, welcomed us with open arms. Once a month for the past three months we’ve taken over the Blue Rose for an afternoon, inviting activists near and far and of all experience levels to join us for a few hours of networking and skills building.
We began each afternoon with the mixer portion of our event—asking attendees to throw on a nametag that had not only their name, but also the area they live in (to assist in finding local activists they can collaborate with) and three things they enjoy doing other than advocating for animal rights. After all, there’s a lot more to each of us than our compassion for reducing suffering, and we know that to effectively build our community it’s helpful to connect with each other on multiple levels.
The attendees were then given the assignment to mingle with others and share their activist story. Listening to people describe their entry to animal activism was a major highlight of our events. It wasn’t uncommon for people to respond to our request with, “Oh I’m not really an activist” or “I don’t have an activist story.” We understood. The truth is that there are many different forms of activism and activists, and a lot of activists don’t even realize they’ve taken on that role. They don’t see that their daily activities count as activism, from boycotting animal products at the grocery store by voting with their dollars for more compassionate products, to explaining to a friend or co-worker that they’re vegan and why. Even if it was the first thing that an attendee had ever done on behalf of animals, just by stepping through the cafe door and saying ‘I want to know how to effectively speak on behalf of animals and engage within this community,’ they were standing in activist shoes. When we took a moment to explain and widen the definition of ‘activist’ from a person who protests in the street, to anyone who is actively being a voice for the voiceless, all attendees were able to own the title and begin to tell us about their journeys.
After an hour or so of sharing stories and enjoying cappuccinos and chocolate croissants, it was time to switch over to the training portion of our events. For Nora and myself, it was time to take a moment and share our own activist stories as well as the importance of effective activism and building community. We also took a minute to thank attendees for the fact that of all the places in the world they could be on a weekend afternoon, they had chosen to come be with us, honing their skills and sharing their experiences.
We would spend the next hour or so explaining the most effective forms of activism that an individual can engage in, from restaurant outreach to pay-per-view, school talks to leafleting, and food sampling. We talked about how to get involved in each form of outreach locally, and about how CAN is set up to support activists with free literature and guidance. Soon enough it was time to stretch our legs, so we’d give a leafleting training inside and then send everyone outside to practice what they’d learned in groups. After a good stretch and an opportunity to share tips and tricks, everyone returned for the most collaborative portion of our event: the effective communication training. We would always go over a few key things to remember before launching into a discussion about what people found most challenging when it comes to communicating on animal rights issues, and how best to tackle those challenges. Sharing thoughts and stories, the group recounted situations that worked well and situations that, if given the chance to do again, could be done more effectively.
As the training wound down we opened up the floor for anyone to share ongoing projects or upcoming events that the group could participate in. We answered questions and talked about the next big step in the process: going out and engaging in effective activism! We handed out sheets filled with upcoming events, local resources, books we recommend reading, and our contact information to stay in touch. We then checked in with each attendee about where they wanted to get started and how we could help. Of course all that was left to do was to engage in everyone’s favorite activity of them all: eating! We’d head next door to Doomie’s Home Cookin’ for delicious vegan eats to conclude an inspiring afternoon.
The trainings have been an exciting and rewarding undertaking over the past few months and we’ve certainly learned a lot from them. Coming from all corners of the greater Los Angeles area, attendees brought their varying experiences and abilities and together we built not only our skills but also our community. From authors to DJs, students to professional animal rights activists, our attendees painted a picture of our greater community as a whole. What we found in those few afternoon hours once a month is that there is a lot we can learn from others, but also that there’s a lot that each of us have to share. There are easy ways in which every single one of us can exponentially save more lives than we currently save every day, and at the root of that is education. We must educate ourselves to be better voices for the voiceless so that we can educate our communities on these issues that affect all of us. Just as important, we must educate each other on our trials and triumphs so that as the collective animal rights movement we develop and expand.
The trainings are currently on hiatus as Nora leaves for the summer to run her highly influential Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp series and I take a leave of absence to cycle across America. Not to worry – we’ll be back!
FARM’s Southwest Outreach Coordinator, Angie Fitzgerald, would like to thank the Los Angeles Director of the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, Nora Kramer, for running with the idea of monthly activist trainings and making these events the highlight of her past few months in LA. She’d also like to thank Prabhat Gautam & The Blue Rose Café for their never-ending support of local activists and their big dreams. If you’d like to attend an upcoming training in the fall, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.